My inspiration for this comes from JL's blog. She posted a recipe for Cashew Cream Tofu on a Facebook group we both belong to - Vegan Cooking from Around the World - and I was smitten. Cashew cream on tofu seemed like such a great idea. Of course I had to do something with it that was spicy, so I used the cashew cream as a base for tikka marinade.
I've had the ingredients to make chaat masala for a while and this was a great reason to make a batch. Chaat masala is an Indian spice blend noted for containing amchoor (green mango) powder and black salt. It is often sprinkled on fruit, as well as used in tandoori dishes. This was also a great excuse to grill something new. Grilling makes everything taste better, I think.
I used a recipe for paneer tikka on Indian Food Forever as a guide. For the chaat masala, I followed the guidelines here. I really like this version because the recipe writer noted which ingredients were essential and which were optional. The paneer tikka recipe also called for tandoori powder. I was thinking that tandoori powder was just red food coloring and I planned to skip it. However, a couple of hours before marinating the tofu and vegetables, I did a bit more Google research and discovered that tandoori powder also has spices in it. It often includes garam masala as well as many of the spices in curry powder, like turmeric and fenugreek. So I used a combination of homemade garam masala, homemade curry powder (similar to this recipe), a fresh red pepper for heat, and paprika for color. It was a good call, I think - the flavors were quite well balanced. The resulting dish is milder than you'd expect, letting the flavor of the tofu and vegetables shine through. (The vegetable dish you see in the on the side is dry okra. We also had rice.)
1 (14-ounce) package firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 sweet onion
8 cremini mushrooms, about 5-6 ounces
1 smallish red bell pepper
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup water
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small fresh chili, minced, optional
2 teaspoons chaat masala (see below)
1-1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika for color (optional)
Drain tofu and press: fold several layers of paper towels under the tofu and top with another folded paper towel. Put a plate on top and weight the plate with a heavy pot or some cans.
Puree cashews, water, ginger, garlic, and chili in the blender. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in chaat masala, garam masala, curry powder, and paprika, if using.
Slice onion into chunks. Cut mushrooms in half. Cut red bell -pepper into 1-1/2 inch squares. Cut tofu into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Arrange tofu and vegetables on skewers - I like to place onion and bell pepper on the ends to hold the softer tofu and mushrooms firmly in place. Brush the tofu and vegetables with the cashew-spice mixture and set aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook.
Prepare charcoal for grilling. Grill skewers until tofu and vegetables are cooked as desired - I like to cook them until a few pieces just start to blacken.
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper
2 teaspoons amchoor powder
1-1/2 teaspoons black salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Toast the cumin, coriander, fennel and pepper in a dry skillet until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Combine with amchoor powder, black salt, garam masala and cayenne pepper in a spice jar.
Makes about 2 tablespoons.